Game Four: No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) vs. No. 6 Texas (3-0)
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 25
Time: 7:00 (E.S.T.)
One down, two more to go, as the Fighting Irish could face two Top 10 teams in back-to-back nights, starting today with No. 6 Texas. Notre Dame kicked off their Maui Invitational on the right side of the bracket with an 88-50 trouncing of intra-state rival Indiana. Unfortunately for the Irish, things won't be that easy against the Longhorns.
Texas has held their opposition to 46.3 points per game and combined 28.9 percent FG shooting, including 14-of-64 (.219) mark from three-point range. Led by guard A.J. Abrams, the Longhorns will try to pressure the Irish up and down the court.
The 3-0 Irish are looking to become 4-0 for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, and they will have to get strong outside production from Kyle McAlarney, Ryan Ayers, and Luke Zeller.
Against the Hoosiers, McAlarney got out of his shooting slump and connected on six three-point baskets for 18 points. Zeller is shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and scoring a career-best 11.0 points a game.
Texas isn't the only team that can play defense! The Irish are holding their opponents to 36.4 percent from the floor and 31.4 percent from three-point range. Notre Dame is also outmuscling their opposition with a plus-11 rebound margin. Led by Tory Jackson, the Irish are creating lots of pressure, forcing 16.7 turnovers and 10 steals a game.
The key for the Irish tonight will be how well Zach Hillesland can contain Texas star Damion James. On the flip side, the Longhorns have to stop Luke Harangody from dominating in the paint.
This will definitely be a high-scoring affair, with the winner booking a possible date with top-ranked North Carolina on Wednesday.
Head Coach: Rick Barnes (career 449-227); 11th year at Texas (247-93)
Last Season: 31-7 overall, 13-3 in the Big 12; lost in the regional finals of NCAA Tournament
Few Big 12 teams, if any, return as much talent as Texas. F Damion James is as strong as anyone in the conference underneath after averaging a double-double (13.2 points, 10.3 rebounds) last season. The Longhorns also have great pop outside with G A.J. Abrams, who already holds the Texas career record for three-pointers.
Additional experience abounds both inside with F Connor Atchley and C Dexter Pittman, and along the perimeter with G Justin Mason and G Dogus Balbay.
There's usually a catch these days when addressing experience on college basketball teams. For Texas, it was the loss of PG D.J. Augustin, who left early and was a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Without its distributor, who influenced the pace of games as well as perhaps anyone in the country, Texas faces a tall task.
Abrams, who senses he needs to play the point to make it in the NBA at 5'11", will get first crack. Mason does have some experience at the position.
C Dexter Pittman 8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg
F Connor Atchley 4.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg
F Damion James 14.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg
G A.J. Abrams 17.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg
G Justin Mason 3.7 ppg 4.0 rpg
F Zach Hillesland 6.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Luke Harangody 23.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg
G Ryan Ayers 9.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G Tory Jackson 11.3 ppg, 4.3 apg
G Kyle McAlarney 9.3 ppg, 5.3 apg